FILIPINO troops found the bodies of 16 civilians murdered by Islamist extremists in the southern city of Marawi, where security forces and Isis-linked militants have been battling for almost a week.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that combat operations were ongoing but that the extremists — part of terror group Abu Sayyaf — were weakening.
“We believe they’re now low on ammunition and food,” he said. “Compared to the initial days, there has been increasingly less resistance from the militants within Marawi.”
Gen Padilla said the bodies of four men, three women and a child were found near a road close to Mindanao State University in Marawi.
Eight other civilian men were found gunned down and thrown into a shallow ravine early yesterday in Marawi’s Emi village, said police officer Jamail Mangadang.
A paper sign attached to one of the men indicated that the victims had “betrayed their faith.”
In addition to the civilian deaths, Gen Padilla said 61 militants, 11 soldiers and four police were among the dead in six days of fighting since Abu Sayyaf seized the city on Tuesday — a total of 92.
The violence erupted on Tuesday night when the government launched a raid to capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon — considered the local Isis leader in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the majority-Muslim city after the failed raid to quell what he described as the growing threat from extremists linked to Isis.
More than 2,000 of Marawi’s 200,000 residents were still trapped inside the city yesterday.
Many sent desperate text messages begging to be rescued and reporting that their homes had been destroyed, said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official in Lanao del Sur, one of the country’s poorest provinces.